Are essential oils good for pets?

Essential oils have earned their place among those who enjoy and benefit from aromatherapy. From easing nausea to decreasing anxiety, these natural, plant-derived products have been central in the lives of many generations, and today they have become part of the natural cure-all trend.

While seemingly safe and advantageous for people, essential oils and pets may be a terrible combination.

Essential oils are highly concentrated compounds derived from plant roots, stems, flowers, leaves and seeds. In addition to applying them as holistic treatments, essential oils can be used in various personal, household and cleaning products.

Essential oils offer numerous healing benefits to people, and although they are natural they may not be safe for your pet. They can present risks to your pet if inhaled, ingested or absorbed into the skin. Just as there are many plants that are considered toxic, irritating, or known to trigger allergic reactions in some animals, essential oils and pets do not safely mix.

The combination of essential oils and pets can be particularly worrisome because there are so many possible ways pets can be exposed to them. Believe it or not, essential oil diffusers, liquid potpourri products, room sprays, air fresheners and more can place your furry companions at risk. Just like humans, animals that have breathing problems, such as asthma, can exhibit labored breathing, excessive panting, or wheezing when exposed to essential oils.

Oils mixed with water molecules and diffused into the air can land on the fur or skin of household pets. They may not only cause irritation to the surface area but if licked and ingested, the following serious symptoms can occur:

  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Squinting
  • Drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Stumbling or disorientation
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Low heart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Trouble getting comfortable

Cats are more sensitive than dogs when it comes to essential oils because they lack a specific enzyme needed to protect the liver from noxious fumes. They may suffer gastrointestinal upset, depression of the central nervous system, and liver damage if overexposed to essential oils.

Additionally, other small animals, birds, and those with compromised immunity deserve an added layer of protection from various essential oils that include:

  • Peppermint or wintergreen
  • Pine
  • Tea tree
  • Citrus
  • Clove
  • Oregano
  • Eucalyptus
  • Pennyroyal
  • Cinnamon
  • Rosemary
  • Birch
  • Anise
  • Juniper
  • Yarrow
  • Thyme

The bottom line with essential oils and pets is to simply keep them apart. If you must use them, be sure your pet is not in the same room. Keep all products out of their reach. If you use them topically, do not allow your pet to lick your skin. Know the signs of toxicity and seek help right away.While there are commercial products available that are advertised at pet-safe or even pet-healthy, we encourage you to discuss your pet’s health with your veterinarian prior to making any changes.

It’s best to err on the safer side.

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